By Chukwudi Abiandu
The Oghara Township stadium’s PDP rally to flag-off its 2019 election campaigns of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was truly a story in political barnstorm. The stadium literally became too small a container for the prodigious crowd of elated and excited party faithful and supporters that thronged the stadium to give credence to the event.
Indeed, flags were issued out to candidates of the party from across the three senatorial districts already endorsed at the party primaries to contest the 2019 elections. And while handing over the party’s flag to Hon. Evelyn Oboro, party Chairman, Kingsley Esiso said to her: “I know that you will not steal the mace in the Senate and that you will not bring shame to the Urhobo nation.”
Yet, the event was a carnival of a sort as the candidates and their supporters danced in excitement to tunes provided by their respective bands, singing praises and chanting support for their candidates. The podium housing the Very Important Personalities (VIPs) became too minute to contain them, and the heat of the sun dealt a severe deal on them. After all, just like the Afro beak king once sang that “Water no get enemy,” so the sun also does not have an enemy. Yet, in the excitement, they stayed put despite the shoving for it was an auspicious moment to show solidarity for the party they loved. They were fortunate to have found spaces at the arena that should be likened to the corridor of power. Even the canopies became too small to contain the multitude of men and women, old and young, the youth, most of who were dressed in T-shirts advertising the candidate that brought them. One of them read: “Better days ahead.” It was the campaign message and expectation of the sponsoring candidate.
And the music blared from multiples of loudspeakers rendering music tunes, chanting the praise of their favoured candidates. The Masters of Ceremonies of the zestful Khuhodu, Pastor Powel Tos Ojogo, and their colleagues were in their very elements helping to keep the multitudes occupied with their announcements. You could hear them declare out of sheer amazement: “What a mobilization; what a carnival; what a day? The who-is-who in Delta Politics is here.” Another interjected, “With the crowd here, the election is practically won. There is no family in Delta State that is not represented here.”
The three musketeers from the sleepy town of Igbodo but Nigeria’s food basket, Deacon Matthew Okwaje, a special assistant to Governor Okowa, Dr. Victor Ebenuwa, the PDP campaign chairman in charge of the Igbodo ward 8 and Elder Joseph Anyali, a retired permanent secretary took time out to express their enthusiasm and support for Governor Okowa. While Okwaje heaped encomium on the Governor for doing marvellously well and so deserves a second term in office, Dr. Ebenuwa said that indeed, Okowa needs support to do more. For Anyali, Governor Okowa should continue, while Atiku should come in to change the change, and the election shall be PDP five over five.
In answer to a question about the crowd, Mr. Sunny Ogwu, a former Chairman of Ika South Local Government said: “Marvelous crowd. It portends victory for Okowa and the PDP.”
But curious about why the event was brought to Oghara to flag-off, the Banneronlinenews.com tried to find out the reason. Someone said Oghara is the traditional home of Chief James Onanefe Ibori, the national leader of the PDP in Delta state and former governor. And according to Olorogun Henry Tietie, chairman, Delta Mega Forum, Oghara has now become the political Mecca of Delta State.
Tietie said: “Oghara is everybody’s home in Delta State; it is peaceful. If you recall, the governorship days of Ibori, he touched the lives of everybody. You want power, come to Oghara. You to enjoy life, come to Oghara. Oghara is a hospitable place for everybody.”
It was not too long that the political phenomenon that Oghara represents became manifest. When Chief James Onanefe Ibori came on the rostrum, first the mention of the name sent the faithful, supporters and well-wishers into ecstasy and wild sustained jubilation, with the shout of Odidigboigbo renting the air. He began by pointing the way to where the Delta PDP leadership stood. It was an occasion that he assembled in a fluid deft motion, with the dexterity of the master political juggernaut. And by the time he finished his submissions, it was clear that the PDP leader had spoken and pointed the way for all the faithful to follow.
First, he asked: “Anioma una ready? Because this is your challenge; pick up your challenge.” What Ibori spoke was clearly understood; he was urging the People of Delta North to gird their loins and be solidly behind Governor Okowa who is the Anioma representative in the political scheme of power rotation in the state. They are not to allow this strategic placement to slip away from them by acts of carelessness.
And to Okowa he said: “And the people of Delta state believe me when I say that you are intelligent, “competent, capable, knowledgeable and have the capacity to govern the state for another four years; you (Governor Okowa) deserve another term, I am indeed, pleased with you, your achievements.”
He continued: “When I was away and you became the governorship candidate of our party, you came to Oghara to flag off your campaign. And today, you are here again to launch your campaign. It shows clearly that you know the history of our political party; you know where we passed into the market. And as the head of this political party, I declare and decree that you have all that it takes to lead this party and all the candidates in this battle. As you have humbled yourself, God will exalt you. As the Odidigboigbo of politics, I am solid with you.”
And taking time to speak to his Urhobo kinsmen and compatriots, Chief Ibori said “we should allow the Anioma people to complete two terms, it is the turn of the Anioma people, don’t let them to deceive you, as you go into campaign field, be peaceful, we are peaceful people, sell your programmes to the people.”
To the PDP candidates, Ibori directed them not to look for trouble as they go on the hustings. “Don’t look for trouble, it doesn’t mean that you are weak,” the leader counselled. And to the PDP opponents in the campaign field, Ibori equally said: “Please, in the name of God, don’t come to Delta State to cause trouble; this is a democracy, you tell the people what you will do, sell your programmes to the people. Anybody that is planning anything that is bad for our state, God will not allow it.”
In closing, Ibori said to Okowa, “We know that you have the capacity to lead this campaign, and finally ended his speech on a note with the gospel song in Ibo language, singing: “Kpo ya Chukwu n’ogaza, kpo ya Chukwu n’ogaza eh, Messaya onye obi oma, kpo ya Chukwu n’ogaza.” And the musicians and the crowd took to the rendition.
Earlier, an elder statesman and notable leader of the party and former Minister of Information, Prof. Sam Oyovbaire, spoke eloquently in support of Governor Okowa achieving a second term in office. “I can say that there is no vacancy in Government House, Asaba,” the erudite scholar and political scientist said, and continued: “ And let me say three other things: I have never seen a rally like this. The Anioma nation is here; the Delta central is here and the Delta south is here. And who else is missing? That’s why I say there is no vacancy in Government House, Asaba.
“This is the third time that I am fortunate to be the chairman of the PDP campaign council. I am truly pleased with Okowa who is a man of integrity and focus. He has turned a very bad situation since June 2015 around to the celebration that we are having today. May God bless him. PDP is taking over at the Villa in Abuja, and in Delta state, there is no vacancy,” Oyovbaire asserted.
Chief Steve Oru, Senator Osakwe, and Dr. Oritsejafor all spoke, commending Okowa for doing impressively well in his first tenure, each of them pointing out that Delta state is a PDP state.
And Senator (Mrs) Stella Omu, speaking on behalf of Delta and Nigerian women said: “The women are unhappy that Nigerians are suffering from insecurity and hunger. But in Delta state, we have a governor who has done well in terms of road construction, among others. But we want a change at the federal level so that we can enjoy political stability and security, economic viability. That is why we want a change in the political leadership of this country.”
Former Deputy Governor of Delta state, Prof. Amos Agbe Utuama said the gathering at the Oghara Township Stadium was to affirm support for the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar. “We are here to affirm our support for our governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, for he has done excellently well and he should continue.”
Standing in for Delta North, another former deputy governor, Chief Benjamin Elue said: “Deltans una do well. I bring you greetings from Delta North, and to thank you for maintaining and entrenching the system of rotation in the state. PDP is synonymous withDelta State and Delta State is PDP. We should all go back to campaign for Atiku, Okowa and all the PDP candidates.
The state PDP chairman, and obviously elated Olorogun Kingsley Esiso, a barrister-at-law, thanked the throng of the people, saying: “This is very impressive. What we are seeing here today is simply a pointer that PDP is Delta State. It shows that Nigerians are tired of the inept government in Abuja and so want a change.”
According to him, It shows also that Deltans are satisfied with the Governor Okowa. “We have come here to tell Deltans why it must be PDP and PDP. That we are embarking on a campaign of issues. We are tired of APC and we are going to kick out APC from the centre. We are tired of killings; we are tired of hunger in the land.
“We are on a campaign to tell our people that our roads in Delta state are being constructed, repaired; that schools are being built and renovated.”
For the Director General of the PDP Campaign Council, Rt. Hon. Funkekeme Solomon, who thanked God for His grace that made the tumultuous gathering of PDP faithful possible, he said the occasion was to celebrate the good works of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa so far. “The governor has done well and therefore, he deserves a second tenure,” he declared.
When Governor Okowa came to speaking, he was really in his political gloves, punching away at his opponents, some of who he derided as being Diaspora Deltans, who merely visit the state for purposes of contesting elections, but never really live in the state and so do not feel the pulse of the people to know their challenges.
He reeled out exploits and achievements of his administration across his five-point agenda of prosperity for all deltans, said his opponents as critics of his administration are blind people that have eyes but cannot see, and declaring that indeed, before the day of election, the opposition would have become extinct and phased out in Delta State. “Before the election day, opposition no go de again,” Okowa said.
He continued: “Delta is now number one in oil production. God will bless our youth, our leaders, and elders for showing understanding that has culminated in the peace that has made it possible for oil production to continued, thereby raising the state’s oil allocation receipts. Delta State in the federation that has done over 350 roads in the country.”
He assured the people of Warri and environs that the road projects would be done, announcing that already N3billion has been earmarked in the 2019 budget for the project to commence. “Delta state has taken over the School in the Delta Steel Company, Aladja for the sake of Deltans. Our health insurance policy is an area where we have become pacesetters for other states to copy from,” Okowa said.
He announced that as his administration moves to the next level, “We are moving into the process of prosperity,” he said but requested that as the process comes on, Deltans should give him their co-operation and the ambience of peace to effectively deliver. “We have, therefore, to deliver all our candidates at the elections,” he stated.
But to his opponents, Okowa handed them a challenge saying: “I offer myself to debate issues concerning Delta State. They should come and face me. They should not run away. They say all the time, ‘I want to be governor, I want to be governor,’ it’s all a deceit. They want to use thugs to scatter the election.” And to Deltans, Okowa said: Do not fear them and their threats of using the police and soldiers. A man that has Deltans behind him does not need to fear any threat.”
He called on the PDP faithful to go about doing a door-to-door campaign, even win over the people in the opposition to come and support PDP. “Have you seen what we did to the opponents in the area of sports?’” Okowa asked sarcastically.
For the Director of Publicity of the Campaign council, Dr. Ifeanyi Osuoza, the Oghara PDP campaign flag-off was a huge success, showcasing the consensus of the who-is-who in Delta politics that Delta State is a PDP state and that Governor Okowa deserves a second term, and giving their endorsement of all the candidates flying the party’s flag at the elections to be voted for.